February 14, 2008

Roster Under Construction

On the eve of Pitchers & Catchers Day, I want to talk about something that's been bouncing around my head for about a month now. The active roster for an MLB team is composed of 25 players. Usually the breakdown is 5 starting pitchers, 6 or 7 guys in the bullpen, 8 starting position players and 5 or 6 guys on the bench.

National league teams tend to carry an extra bench player over an extra reliever to facilitate pinch hitting, double switches and other strategic concerns. Teams with questionable starting pitching tend to carry an extra reliever to take some of the pressure off both their starters and their bullpen. The Nationals are an NL team with questionable starting pitching, so something's got to give.

The issue is not so much who occupies each individual spot, but how they fit together as a whole. Here's an example: Either NJ or Dmitri is going to occupy first base, and the other will be on the bench. Likewise, either FLop or Ronnie will be playing second, with the other riding the pine. Elijah Dukes seems to be the consensus fourth outfielder going into Spring Training and Estrada will back up LoDuca unless and until Paulie LoDown is suspended, indicted and/or deported. With Aaron Boone in the "Batista-Baerga Memorial INF/PH" role that's five bench spots filled with no left-handed outfielders.

The bullpen is similarly crowded. Big Jon Rauch and The Chief figure to be locked in as primary setup guy and closer, respectively. If Luis Ayala is healthy he'll be there too, as will, in all likelihood "Everyday" Saul Rivera. Again, that's four relievers before you've added a lefty or a swingman. Assuming Ray King really has slimmed down to the point where he only occupies one roster spot that only leaves two roster spots for a lefty outfielder, a utility infielder, a 2nd lefty reliever or a spot starter/swingman.

In the abstract this isn't a terrible problem to have. Nats fans who recall the not-too-distant halcyon days of Jeffrey Hammonds, Joe Horgan and Matt White can be forgiven for smiling at the current conundrum. Too many talented players for too few spots is nothing to object to strenuously. Injuries, trades, minor league options, a lot of things can happen between now and Opening Day that will make this issue moot. But with the start of Spring Training visible just over the horizon, the club will have some decisions to make.

1 comment:

Bote Man said...

Assuming Ray King really has slimmed down to the point where he only occupies one roster spot...

Touché old man! I chuckled.